Against Alabama, one Georgia freshman wide receiver had a breakout game of sorts with Jermaine Burton catching his first career touchdown.
And now with the Bulldogs taking on Kentucky on Saturday, it might be time for another freshman wide receiver to turn heads, as Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint has created some positive buzz coming out of the off week.
To this point in his freshman season, the wide receiver from Pompano Beach, Fla., has three catches for 30 yards. But when speaking this week, Georgia coach Kirby Smart indicated he may be ready for a bigger role in the Georgia offense.
“I think Marcus Rosemy-Jacksaint is a guy that has really come along and done some nice things that we’re hoping to grow his role and get him developed,” Smart said.
There is also the fact that Georgia will probably need more from Rosemy-Jacksaint given the status of George Pickens. Smart indicated that Pickens has not been 100 percent healthy heading into Saturday’s game.
“He is in and out—based on him being dinged up a couple of times. We have a lot of guys that way,” Smart said on Wednesday. “He practiced yesterday.”
Of the five wide receivers Georgia signed in its 2020 recruiting class, Rosemy-Jacksaint was the highest-rated as he was the No. 55 overall player in the cycle. A good performance from Rosemy-Jacksaint, along with the continued growth of Burton could go a long in helping the future of the wide receiver room in Athens.
Quarterback: No one needs a bounceback game more than Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett after his three-interception performance against Alabama.
During the off week, Bennett had a number of things to work on, whether it be avoiding batted balls at the line of scrimmage or making a less aggressive throw for an easier check down.
But there was one aspect that Smart mentioned where he brought up the name of former Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm.
“I thought that he could learn a lot from Jake [Fromm] in terms of pocket awareness,” Smart said. “Where are the holes in the pockets? Where is the rush? Where can [he] step up? I think he has done well with that. It is hard to simulate that because we don’t have games. We try to do it with competitive third down and pass periods.”
Bennett doesn’t exactly face a swiss-cheese defense this week in Kentucky. In the previous three games, the Kentucky secondary has yet to yield a touchdown pass while coming up with nine interceptions. It might be better for Bennett to have a turnover-free day, as opposed to one with bigger passing totals.
Running back: The last time we saw James Cook, the Georgia running back had his most impactful game as a Georgia Bulldogs. He showed his versatility as both a runner and pass catcher, highlighted by his 82-yard touchdown catch.
Cook was coming off a shoulder injury entering the game, so now with another week to heal following the off week, there’s a lot of interest to see what Cook will bring to the backfield.
His teammates are looking forward to what he does to top the Alabama game.
“The ceiling is very high for him,” tight end Tre’ McKitty said. “He is a freak athlete so seeing what he can do on the field has been amazing so far. I am glad to have him as a teammate. He is a great guy and a great player… His ability to turn the corner and do things like that—things like that make him a freak athlete.”
Tight end: Through four games, the tight end room has been a mixed back in terms of production. The start of the season saw John FitzPatrick catch a touchdown pass, while McKitty had two catches for 47 yards receiving in his first game of the year against Tennessee.
Add in the number of viral clips that Darnell Washington has had and there have been some bright spots.
But Georgia seemed to go away from that against Alabama, with the three tight ends having just two catches for 16 yards. It was statistically the least involved the tight ends have been involved in the passing game to date.
But Smart still likes what he’s seen overall from the group so far.
“Tight ends can become weapons if they can block teams’ perimeter players,” Smart said. “If you can get a bigger man on a smaller man on the edges, it certainly helps in terms of the passing game. A lot of it has to do with how they’re playing and how they’re playing us. If the run game working the play action can sail.”
Smart added that being healthy was the No. 1 thing for this group, as McKitty and Washington have both dealt with knee injuries. McKitty told reporters on Wednesday that he continues to feel better following a knee injury that caused him to miss Georgia’s first two games.
Offensive line: In addition to the running backs, the Georgia offensive line also had its most encouraging game of the season. Statistically, it outperformed the vaunted Alabama group as Georgia gave up fewer sacks and had a higher yards per carry number than the Crimson Tide.
The Bulldogs seemed to have settled on a starting five of Jamaree Salyer at left tackle, Justin Shaffer at left guard, Trey Hill at center, Ben Cleveland at right guard and Warren McClendon at right tackle.
But the group still feels it has room to grow, especially when you consider Cleveland and Hill are the only players with double-digit starts.
“One thing Coach Smart teaches us is that practice makes permanent—so whatever we do in practice is what we are going to do during the game. That is our motto that we try to stick to,” Hill said. “We have gotten better through our mentality on how the game needs to be played.”
Smart still thinks this group has a little bit more to give if the group is going to play as well as some of the past offensive lines, especially from a depth perspective.
“They are playing at a better level, probably not what we need in terms of being elite, but they work hard each day,” Smart said. “Right now, it’s really about developing the younger guys and continuing to get them better and trying to get our first guys to execute at a higher level.”
Defensive line: The Georgia defensive front will be facing a quarterback making his first career start on Saturday, as the Wildcats will be rolling with Joey Gatewood for the injured Terry Wilson.
Gatewood was a former top-100 quarterback and competed with Bo Nix at Auburn for the starting job there in 2019. Smart did recruit him and there is just enough known about the Kentucky quarterback, who has the same trainer as Georgia quarterback Carson Beck, to have an idea of the challenge he will present.
“I certainly respect him and think he’s a great football player,” Smart said. “He’s big, physical and hard to tackle and, in that offense, when you combine their ability to throw, you can imagine if Lynn Bowden was a better passer last year, how hard that would have been to defend.”
Bowden did run for 99 last season against the Bulldogs, but the Georgia defense shutout Kentucky that day. Gatewood isn’t the speedster that Wilson or Nix is, but he is certainly a threat with his legs.
Linebacker: Monty Rice was not fully healthy the last time out against Alabama but he was still able to play meaningful snaps in the loss.
Since then the Bulldogs have been managing Rice’s injury as a way to keep the talented senior linebacker fresh.
“He was able to practice at a limited amount with his foot sprain,” Smart said. “He was able to go in the Alabama game. We were certainly thankful for that. We gave him some time off in the off week to recover. His biggest thing is maintaining his cardio right now.”
Kentucky’s run game is capable with the likes of Chris Rodriguez and AJ Rose at running back. Should Georgia need to spell Rice a little bit more than normal, look for more snaps from junior Quay Walker as well as sophomore Nakobe Dean. The Wildcats are second in the conference in rushing yards per game as they average 183 per game.
Defensive backs: Other than Stetson Bennett, perhaps no one is more eager to play again than the Georgia secondary following the Alabama game. Crimson Tide quarterback Mac Jones threw for 417 yards and four touchdowns against what was a vaunted Georgia secondary.
Now we’ll see how they look against a Kentucky offense that has been nowhere near as potent as the Crimson Tide. The Wildcats come into the game with the worst passing offense in the conference, averaging only 124 yards per game through the air.
Because the Wildcats are such a run-heavy team, the Bulldogs will once again ask their cornerbacks to play a lot of man-to-man coverage, leaving the cornerbacks on an island.
“There is nothing shameful about getting beat in a one-on-one situation against a great athlete,” Smart said. “But, you can’t give out things. Some of them were scheme, and some of them were some really good plays they ran getting their guys in one-on-one situations. It was a combination of both. We can’t suffer from either and be a good team.”
The group could also be getting back some reinforcements if cornerback DJ Daniel is able to go. He did not play against Alabama as he was dealing with an ankle injury.
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- Georgia teammates share bye week improvements of Stetson Bennett, JT Daniels
- Kirby Smart updates George Pickens’ health, playing status, target chart
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